Finn, Undersander win top prize during final round of PioBiz

PioBiz winners posing with checks and the judges

Great ideas don’t always come from a great moment.

Rebekah Finn ’19 (Cincinnati, Ohio) didn’t come up with the concept for Providing Pawsable until after her freshman year at Marietta College when she was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

EDS is a connective tissue disorder that leads to unstable joints and fragile skin.

“I began physical therapy to build my muscle up, that way it could do what my connective tissue couldn’t,” she said. “After a year of physical therapy, I was still having pain every day while walking so we kept searching for answers. I found out that my leg bones were rotated in the opposite direction and decided to get a surgery where they broke both bones in my legs to reconstruct them correctly.”

This left Finn in a wheelchair for an entire semester, and she repeated the process on her other leg that summer.

“Not too long after my first surgery I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or POTS. This leads to my heart rate skyrocketing and blood pressure dropping when I change positions or stand for too long,” she said. “With POTS, I have dizzy spells and even can become unconscious. To sum up, I went from a healthy, active 18-year-old to a 20-year-old who had undergone two surgeries, was in pain every day and became unconscious if I stood up too quickly.”

She realized this wasn’t the life she wanted and the treatment doctors were offering were not helping.

“I began searching for other answers and found service dogs and how they could help. For months that was all I could think about, but I couldn’t afford any of the organizations out there nor wait multiple years on their waiting list,” Finn said. “So, I began looking around at shelters for a dog I could train myself. That is when I found Zoey, and we have been together one-and-half years now. She has raised my quality of life so much that I can't even put it in words.”

Once Finn saw the difference Zoey made for her, she knew more people could benefit from service dogs.

“But the market was so difficult between the extreme cost and long wait times,” Finn said. “I began researching what these organizations were doing well and what wasn’t working, in the eyes of a client. I then combined all the good I could with the goal of reducing cost and wait time. That was when Providing Pawsable was born.”

Along with classmate Michael Undersander ’19 (Alexandria, Virginia), the business idea of Providing Pawsable won the final round of Marietta College’s 2019 PioBiz competition, which is focused on the business plan. Finn and Undersander won $9,000 for finishing first. The second-place team of Cameron Dowiak ’19 (Burgettstown, Pennsylvania) and Audrey Albright ’21 (Moraine, Ohio) were awarded $1,000 for their second-place project “EcoX.” This was the fourth year of the competition, which is open to all Marietta College students and their partners.

“I am honestly still in shock over the win, it doesn't feel real and I expect to wake up any minute,” Finn said. “I have a list of things I would like to achieve or purchase in the next year, some with the money we won and some with the money we are earning through our services. I plan to renew our website subscription for the entire year, applying for our nonprofit and 501(c)3 status, open a business bank account — so I can keep all funds organized — and build our facility.”

During the third round of the competition, each of the two competing teams of students presented their business plans in 20 minutes followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session with four judges. After both teams had presented, audience members voted for their favorite business ideas. 

Each judge was asked to assign 0 to 10 points to each team in the following categories: quality of the business plan, quality of presentation, and the quality of answers in the Q and A segment of the presentation. Each judge also assigned 0 to 20 points to each business idea based on its predicted potential to succeed.  

The competition judges were Faith Knutsen, Director of Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership & Public Affairs, Christopher Pfeiffer, Founder and President of Sourdough LLC, Tres Ross, Executive Director of The Ross Foundation, and Dr. Carrie White, Assistant Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, West Virginia University.